Los Angeles is infamous for its music scene and the countless record labels that have spawned as a response to the seemingly infinite pool of talent within it. Label logos can be seen sprawling across skyscrapers in Hollywood, a reminder of the magnitude of the industry and the velvet ropes that incase it.
The music industry has always had an air of exclusivity to it. Figuring out how to “make it” is a concept that has always been clouded in mystery. A secret kept by old-school white-collared music executives, held at an arm’s length from the aspiring artists that seek an audience and the recognition that comes with it.
Over the past years, this norm has begun to be challenged. With the proliferation of digital streaming services for the distribution of music, and social media for its marketing, the barrier to entry has changed dramatically. As a result, this has opened the door for a whole new scene of Indie Labels and Artists to emerge, allowing anyone with the will, drive, and creativity to create a platform for themselves.
I’ve become enthralled in the change we’re seeing in the music industry, and sat down with a few innovators who I believe are pushing the boundaries of what a Record Label once was.
Cody Colacino and Bugz Ronin aren’t what you’d expect from two young label executives. When I went to sit down with them to discuss their label, Pure Sinners Ent, I found Colacino viciously strumming his guitar, his tattoo covered hands moving effortlessly from chord to chord. In between recordings, he took several calls discussing everything from budgeting to custom cuts for a clothing line. I was surprised to see how the creative studio work was being blended so seamlessly with the tense business conversations being presented.
In the midst of the session, Bugz Ronin walks into the studio with a skateboard in one hand and a snow bengal cat in the other. Right away he started to transform what Colacino had already started into a fully evolved song that was unique to say the least.
Ronin is widely known for his production on Lil Uzi Vert’s double-platinum album Eternal Atake, among other notable collaborations, such as Young Thug’s “ Slime Language 2 ” which debuted at #1 on Billboard. Colacino has been signing and developing artists for a couple years now, recently signing joint venture deals for his previous production company with Universal Music Group’s Island Records. His production credits extend to Lil Xan, Trippie Redd, Ski Mask The Slump God, Lil Keed and now Bad Neighbors just to name a few.
The producer duo teamed up to start Pure Sinners Entertainment just over a year ago. Their mission is to set a new standard to what a record label provides for their artists. While most labels may claim to be experts in “artist development”, Cody & Bugz are taking this to another level. They not only distribute, market and fund their artists, but are sculpting their sound and brand image from the ground up. They are producers and creatives before business, so they are fully immersed in the culture with their artists.
Producers used to be seen as curators and taste-makers in the industry and it became somewhat lost with beat makers taking over. Colacino and Ronin are bringing back that hands-on approach to curating sounds for the artists they work with.
They believe if you are going to participate in ownership of your artists’ masters, you need to do more than just distribute / fund their music.
The first group they signed to their label, “Bad Neighbors”, composed of artists Rage and Khaos, are a statement within themselves due to their provocatively unique image / sound, and are starting to amass buzz in the industry. They are blending sounds from the trap and rap music with the energy and production of early 2000 punk music.
In addition to the Record label, they’re launching a coinciding high-fashion brand, “Sinners Club”, that represents the ethos of the record label.
Both Cody & Bugz have recently signed major label deals for previous artists they worked with and have taken the advances from their respective label deals and invested them into cryptocurrency, using the proceeds to help fund their new label. This just goes to show how the playing field is being leveled out and evolving so quickly.
This new breed of record labels, started by young digital-natives who have already made a name for themselves as individuals, may be the birth of a new wave in the industry. While large record labels have traditionally been the gatekeepers of the industry, new paradigms for how music can be curated and shared are being developed as we speak.
With the reach the internet has given up and coming artists, indie record labels are becoming more and more viable solutions for getting your music out there. Cody Colacino and Bugz Ronin seem to be taking full advantage of this new digital ecosystem we live in, pushing the boundaries of what “labels”, and even “producers” have traditionally been constrained to.